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Mum reveals tricks to occupy kids on weekends without spending money

Pictures of the family enjoying activities

Fun doesn’t have to cost money (Picture: Jam Press)

Emma Stretton, 37, is a copywriter from Manchester describes herself as a ‘savvy saver’ who likes to show how to make your money go further.

As the summer holidays begin, families across the UK are gearing up for six weeks’ of fun, but for many parents, the cost of living crisis has left them with little to spend.

Now, Emma is helping parents keep their wallet sealed with ‘no spend weekends’ that are still plenty of fun, including fakeaways and makeshift movie nights.

‘I’m just quite tight and I don’t like wasting money, so I just think of ways around having to spend it,’ Emma said.

‘I’m also by teaching my children you don’t have to spend money to have fun and that doing things together is more valuable.

‘[My inspiration draws] from being a kid and having to make my own fun a lot, as we only had four channels [on the television] and that was it.

‘I like encouraging my kids to be creative.’

Below are Emma’s top tips.

Local events

Firstly, treat Google as your best friend and set aside some time for research.

Local parks will have free entry events lined up especially during the warmer months and for sport fanatics, check the fixtures of your local team.

‘We go to the local cricket club on a Sunday and watch the local teams play, which costs nothing,’ Emma advises.

‘Going to the cricket or rugby club costs a lot less than it would be to go to an actual game, but [I find] pitching down the road with a little picnic is way more fun.

‘There’s monthly makers markets in the town center that we have a walk around and we don’t have to buy anything, it’s nice being out in the community.

‘If the kids have any pocket money saved up, they might get a cake or something similar.

Emma and her husband pictured with their two sons

Emma Stretton enjoying a day out at a local park with her sons Barney and Seth and husband Michael (Picture: Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all)

‘Going to a friend’s house for an hour or meeting at the park costs a lot less than a big night out would.’

Emma also recommends searching hashtags on social media such as #freefun or #freeactivites and joining local groups.

However, she says the most fun activities usually come from using your imagination and can also help teach kids how to be responsible.

‘Using a bit of imagination rather than going to big attractions is totally free and can be a lot more fun,’ Emma says.

‘Tidying up after is annoying, but I get the kids to do that too, so they also learn responsibility.

‘Try to remember what you used to do [as a kid] and what you loved – whether it’s bike rides or monopoly.

‘That makes it fun not just for your kids, but for you too.’

get creative

Using social media, the ‘savvy saver’ follows multiple accounts that focus on keeping kids entertained by allowing them to use their creativity.

This can be both fun and educational for children.

‘You can freeze toys in a block of ice and challenge them to get them out,’ she says.

Emma's son with face masks on

Emma’s sons after a fun day at home (Picture: Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all)

‘You can play the ‘floor is lava’ using cushions and blankets, so you don’t step on the floor, or sticking masking tape to the floor and making a tape road.

‘Make face masks out of yoghurt and pretend you’re at a spa – it gets the kids to use their imagination and make some fun memories.’

Meals and food

For weekends, Emma loves a good television show and takeaway but as food prices increase across the board, local fish and chip shops have become less affordable.

Yet Emma says you don’t need to miss out on this traditional treat.

‘Doing a no spend weekend means so takeaways, meals out or last minute trips to the shop for chocolate,’ she explains.

‘I’ll plan out some fakeaways for the weekend and buy the ingredients in the weekly shop, as we’re more likely to stick to it when we already have things ready.

Emma's sons toasting marshmallows

Toasting marshmallows (Picture: Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all)

‘I’ll often take chicken or something out of the freezer, so it forces me to use it rather than let it go to waste.’

Emma researches online for replica recipes of her favorite takeaway dishes and says that buying ingredients from a cheap supermarket can make a saving of around £30.

‘We give the kids coke floats and chicken nuggets and chips in a basket, so it’s a bit like being at a diner,’ she says.

‘I’ll also stock up on sweets or popcorn and make a big sweet bowl, so we can eat that while watching a film.’

the classics

Emma says board games such as Monopoly or Cluedo are the secret to a great family night in.

She believes taking a trip down memory lane with old music or films gives something for the whole family to enjoy.

‘One of the reasons I love not spending weekends is because it makes us do things we used to do as kids,’ Emma says.

‘We’ll get the board games out and play as a family. You can also play adult versions if you want to and make it more interesting later on.

‘We watch a lot of old music videos on YouTube, as I love getting the boys into the music that we, and even our parents, loved when we were younger.

‘Just putting on music and dancing is the best way to kill half-an-hour.

‘When the kids are in bed, we’ll see what we’ve got lying around and make some awful cocktails and watch an old DVD or something on the TV.’

Emma Stretton and her sons Barney and Seth enjoying a day out at a National Trust garden

Having fun doesn’t have to be expensive (Picutre: Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all)

Before having children, Emma and her husband could ‘easily’ spend £100 in one night if they were out with friends.

Now, apart from the weekly food shop, Emma claims she can get through the weekend without spending a penny.

Making time for family and friends at the weekend made her realize you don’t need to spend money to have a good time.

‘Actually making the effort to do things [together] such as play games or dances means quality time,’ Emma adds.

‘I love weekends – I work hard during the week, so I can enjoy them. Especially if the weather is good, we can all get outside and just relax.

‘Having friends over is great, because the kids all play together and kicking a ball about costs nothing, while we get to have a catch up.

‘The biggest advice is to not overthink it – make the most out of spending time together.

‘Use social media to find ideas, look for local events and try local sports clubs.

‘Plan meals in advance, so you’re not tempted and get the kids involved – ask them what ideas they have or what game they would like to play.

‘Baking, hide and seek, dodgeball, karaoke competitions; things like that are all free and fun.

‘There’s a lot to be said for sitting around talking as well and a good movie marathon should not be underestimated.’

If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.

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